Deb’s Own MSG Story
Excerpt from book:
“This book is written first and foremost for our children, our good friends, and large extended family, all of whom make our lives worth living. It is also for all those who would benefit from an MSG free diet - in our opinion, that includes all of us.
To explain more clearly how this simple food additive has affected my life and many of those around me, I must go back a little in time to the early part of 1975. My husband, Mike, and I were living in our first home in Seattle, Washington, with our three young children, Kris (four years), Shelli (two years), and baby Michael. It was an exciting and happy time in my life, filled with fun and work. I had great friends with whom I shared tole painting and Chinese cooking classes. I was full of energy, was still wearing the same dress size I wore when I got married, had a sweet and very helpful husband, and felt very busy but happy. Then suddenly I started experiencing chest pains. The first time it happened, the area around my heart hurt with knife-like pains and jabs whenever I tried to breathe in. Mike and I were terrified as I lay on the floor unable to get my breath. Mike was about to give me mouth to mouth resuscitation and call for an ambulance, when my normal breathing began to return. I felt so weak afterwards that I went to bed and later resumed life's normal demands. But a few days later, the same thing happened, and then again every three to five days. After a couple of weeks, I visited my doctor who gave me a complete physical and then declared my heart was "very strong" and everything else was very normal. He asked me if my life and marriage were "OK, if there were any problems. After all, I was reminded, I'd just had a baby and two other children and it was likely that stress was manifesting itself this way. I was shocked and embarrassed to think that I wasn't able to cope emotionally with the rigors of my chosen lifestyle. He suggested that I get out more with adults, take lots of restful baths, etc. I enrolled in a second Chinese cooking class with my sister and two other friends. It was great fun, but my symptoms continued. After a few months, I looked terrible. I'd lost some weight, my face was puffy, there were bags under my eyes and the girl who was nicknamed, "The roadrunner" in college, now walked around the house feeling like her arms and legs were dragging 50 pound weights. Getting the kids fed and dressed became huge chores. My idea of a successful day was when I could manage getting all three to nap at the same time so that I could rest, too. All I wanted to do was sleep. I put on a happy face at church, because it would have been embarrassing if anyone knew my secret: that I was unable to cope. I often had terrible headaches lasting two to three days. After a year, I confided in a close friend and she suggested a different doctor. Same tests, same results: "You're as strong as a horse - good heart. Try to relax more. The third doctor I saw told me, "It's all in your head, as far as I can tell." I felt humiliated. Three years and three more doctors later, I gave up. I then became acquainted with a nurse who eventually treated me like a big sister. One day, after an especially trying week, I blurted it all out to her. I felt like such a failure and hypocrite. My family and friends thought I had it "all together. I had always been labeled "capable, the lucky one, the one who could handle anything. In three years I had gone from a confident, cheerful mom and wife to a person I could barely understand or like very much. Cranky, tired, and always achy, my poor husband was at a loss as to how to help me. My friend listened and suggested another physician. I trusted her opinion and got an examination from this kind doctor. He told me my symptoms were very much like those of a young patient of his whose first attack happened on the football field during a game. Tests showed he had asthma and this doctor suspected the same of me. I saw an allergist and had the scratch tests done, which on a scale of 1-10, showed I was an 11, being mostly sensitive to mold, weeds, and dust. The immunization shots began. After a year I did feel somewhat better with fewer headaches and chest pains. However, I seemed to catch every viral or bacterial infection to come my way. Sore throats and bronchial infections plagued me often and the headaches I did get were still severe and sometimes debilitating. I learned to accept them and do the best I could on my better days.
Several years later, something new began to happen to me. I called them my stomach episodes. Whenever Mike and I ate out, my stomach would feel full less than half way through the meal. Within one half to one hour later, I'd be belching uncontrollably and racing to the nearest bathroom, suffering explosive and burning diarrhea. Following that, I'd have a terrible thirst and throbbing headache. For two or three days my stomach felt as though a tank had run over it. My mouth and tongue felt terribly dry and I'd be very thirsty. The whole time I'd be weak, headachy, and light headed, feeling chills or flushes and sometimes my fingers or toes felt numb. Another symptom appeared. The bones in my feet or hands would hurt if squeezed at all. My knees would sometimes ache. I wondered if it was arthritis. Also, I suffered from frequent urination, getting up two to four times at night. The episodes continued and often happened after I ate at home, also. Mike bought me some electrolyte powder to help replace some of the minerals and liquids I often lost. Soon I was developing hemorrhoids due to the painful diarrhea. My doctor told me it was colitis or irritable bowel syndrome and suggested hemorrhoid surgery in the near future. I was in my early forties. Meanwhile, after suffering pain from a uterine fibroid tumor and heavy bleeding, I had a complete hysterectomy. While recuperating, I again developed terrible diarrhea. Mike kept trying to pump up my strength with canned chicken soup and lots of orange juice. It was a very slow recovery and I was convinced that I was a real wimp and poor health was my fate. A couple of months later, I developed a urinary tract infection. Resting at home, I faithfully took my prescribed medication, but only got worse. Again I suffered terrible burning diarrhea, and headaches that were worse than ever. After three days on the medicine, my husband took one look at me when he got home from work and said, "You look worse, not better," and ordered me to call the doctor's office. Fortunately, a nurse was put on the line. I told her of the problem. She told me to quit taking the medication immediately because I was obviously allergic to sulfa drugs. She too was sensitive to sulfa drugs, and consequently, was the first person to give me insight into part of the cause of my health problems. She told me I was probably allergic to sulfites too. What were sulfites? She explained that a lot of processed foods contained sulfites, as preservatives, and that I should go to a health food store for resource books on food additives. This I did and was shocked at how many foods I often ate that contained sulfites, i.e., dried apricots, fruit juice, fruit syrups, sauerkraut, soda pop, bottled lemon juice, dehydrated and French fried potatoes. Sulfites are even used to clean and disinfect commercial cooking equipment and storage bins. It was also sprayed on salad bars to keep the fruits, vegetables, and salads fresh appearing, although that practice is now prohibited. I cleaned out my cupboards and refrigerator of as much of the culprit as I could and noticed fewer stomach episodes, cramping, and headaches. I continued to read and send for more information from various sources. Then came the holiday season of 1994. I was trying to be so careful to avoid sulfites as I prepared all the family favorites during this busy time. But my symptoms got worse and I became depressed. I told myself that perhaps it wasn't sulfites after all. Maybe IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) would continue to plague me forever. But I didn't give up. I tried even harder after the holidays to eat healthy foods, read labels and memorize the various names of sulfite compounds on labels. Then my 20 year old son called from Miami. He was suffering horrendous migraines. He was weak and getting outpatient treatment for a bronchial infection he couldn't shake. He had a battery of tests including an MRI and allergy tests. Since nothing could be found, the doctors felt he was just suffering from stress and allergies to the grasses that grew there. He suffered dizziness, an inability to concentrate or recall well, and after his bout with bronchitis, returned home to see if he could recuperate here. What had happened to my usually strong, happy and healthy son? When we picked him up at the airport, I saw a different young man from the one who had left a year earlier. Something pricked my memory. I noticed the bags under his eyes, the tired look and the puffy face. It was like a mirror of myself when I first started having health problems while in my twenties. Had he inherited my constitution? I never once believed he was suffering from stress. I knew my son. This was a person to whom everything came easily. He'd even had his own lawn care business at age 16. Confident, athletic, intelligent, I could not shake the belief that there had to be something else going on here. I watched him closely. During his headaches, he'd hole himself up in a darkened room with a blanket covering him, chilled and in terrible pain, the strain showing in his hurting eyes. He said his arms would feel heavy and numb. He'd complain that he couldn't remember anything or speak clearly during and shortly after the episodes. He was becoming depressed and anxious about his future, which included college and a medical profession. How could he study with such debilitating headaches? He felt like a failure at 20. We took him to local doctors. He had a brain wave test, CAT scans and an MRI, visited a neurologist, allergist, and two other specialists. All said he was very healthy. One doctor, a psychologist (after all, it had to be in his mind since the tests were all negative) gave him a book about coping with stress. Even some relatives chose to believe it was his inability to handle a lot of demands or responsibility. This again was all too familiar with my own earlier experience. As for my condition, I was becoming very tired of unexplained headaches and sporadic diarrhea. I'd had all the unpleasant tests, including ultrasound and upper and lower gastro intestinal series and all were negative. I noticed my vision blurring, especially during and after headaches. I had learned all that I could about sulfites, was avoiding all the specified foods containing them and still I was not free of several symptoms. Id also gained 16 pounds in nine months, often had blue days when I felt a little black cloud hovered over only me and found my energy level fading. The word depression wasnt in my vocabulary. That happened to other people, not me.
Then one morning in February 1995, I woke up with a massive headache and felt the familiar nausea, accompanied by belching and some chest pains, too. It had happened so many times in the last 21 years, but the memory of that particular morning is crystal clear in my mind. I was totally whipped and though people know me as an upbeat optimist, I finally felt beaten. For the first time I cried - for my son, and for myself. I'd often counted all my blessings to get me through hard times, but this morning, my Dad's words of "If you don't have your health, you don't have anything." ran through my mind. I slid from the bed to my knees and sought help and comfort from a higher source. Desperately pouring out my heart, I told God that I couldn't handle it anymore. I told Him that I would rather die than feel this rotten all the time, and that I wanted to be able to enjoy my children and grandchildren and not be a burden. As an intensely peaceful feeling calmed me, I felt the distinct impression that the answer was in my file about sulfites. I got up and with a feeling of real confidence and anticipation, I rushed to get my file. It was filled with the familiar information that I had read several times before. Again, I leafed through, pausing for a moment on a bulletin sent by the MSG Sensitivity Institute, concerning MSG. I'd never read it, believing sulfites to be the sole cause for my health problems. After reviewing everything I had, and flipping two more times through the pages on sulfites, the article on MSG seemed to pop out at me, so I began to read it. Suddenly, I could feel an excitement growing inside of me. The article was describing all the symptoms that my son and I had been experiencing, often using the exact words that we had used to describe them! I immediately called my husband at work and told him I knew without a doubt what the culprit was and had been for years: Monosodium Glutamate. I, like most people, had assumed that MSG was found only in Chinese food. Little did I know it was in our cereal, catsup, crackers, mayonnaise, tuna, yogurt, diet food, soft drinks, salad dressings, processed meats, most fast foods, and frozen snacks and meals, seasonings, canned soups and entrees, and even most ice creams. In addition, many restaurants load their foods with this so-called safe flavor enhancer, often unaware of its hidden sources and names.
I sent for information from NOMSG (National Organization Mobilized to Stop Glutamate) and some other suggested resources in the article. Then I ordered two books through our local bookstore. I cleaned out half my cupboards and refrigerator. Using the information, I ate meals without MSG for the first time in years. Incredibly, all my symptoms disappeared, reappearing only after eating MSG by mistake, usually at a restaurant or at parties. Unbelievably my post nasal drip, something Ive endured since childhood, also disappeared. I sent my son the information and though skeptical at first because of his bad experiences, he eventually tried MSG elimination and reclaimed his health.
It has been several years since our discovery. But in that time I've been able to share the information that I've gleaned with many fellow victims of MSG toxicity. One of my acquaintances has Parkinson's Disease. She has fewer symptoms as long as she avoids MSG and other toxic additives. My next door neighbor confided in me about her health problems. I gave her the information. In a couple of days she came over to ask for MSG free recipes and said she had thought she was dying, but now knows her stomach problems and sometimes fuzzy memory are caused by MSG. Her mother had Alzheimer's. Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, the author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, believes that MSG and other neurotoxins, such as aspartame and L-cysteine, cause or exacerbate many neurodegenerative diseases. My husband's father is so sensitive to MSG, his throat closes off if he eats it and he must induce vomiting. His mother had Alzheimer's disease for several years before she passed away. The author also shows a link to attention deficit disorder, anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, depression, and asthma. Incidentally, after giving my findings to my own doctor, he suggested stopping my allergy shots to see if MSG was the cause for my asthma attacks and headaches. It was. After 20 years of injections, I no longer needed them. I never did.”
The FDA may call MSG safe, but independent researchers estimate at least 30% to 40% or more of the population may be MSG sensitive in varying degrees. Dr. Schwartz, a toxicologist and author of, In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex, maintains that everyone reacts to MSG if enough is ingested. He classifies it as an addictive drug. Many are unaware of the reasons for their symptoms and are being misdiagnosed, mistreated, and are suffering needlessly. Some of those people are my friends, relatives, and my children. Man is slow to learn and change when it concerns food and money. Well-paid lobby groups funded by the multi-billion dollar food industry are constantly working to make MSG appear safe to the public. They send pamphlets to schools and health professionals, and post websites to educate us about MSG's virtues (The International Food Information Council, Glutamate Association, International Glutamate Technical Committee). I believe change will eventually come, but until then, fellow sufferers, and the health conscious, this book is for you. I hope it will enlighten and help answer the question I hear most, “What can I eat, now?”